Craft Films: Umbrellas

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History – I’m on chapter two about Charles Macintosh, windshield wipers and umbrellas. In Japan, the book says, umbrellas were status symbols in ancient times. In the 19th century they became a popular accessory for the masses and umbrella-making districts thrived. As many as sixteen craftsmen had their hand in making each one: the handmade paper and dyes, the bamboo ribs and handle, and the intricate painting. Plus woodturning, for the central hub is turned from solid wood.

Youtube has some videos. All the ones I found are from modern times, yet most feature the use of a spring-pole lathe. Sitting and turning was awkward the one time I tried it (on a 19th C. Barnes lathe I borrowed for Roy Underhill’s TV show), but several of these turners like sitting down on the job.

The first film is from Burma. The spring-pole starts around the 2-minute mark, but the whole thing is worth watching. Making the handmade paper is great fun to watch and the fellow at the end with his simple bench and toe-vice can work bamboo better than I (that stuff is splintery – try it sometime).


The second video has closer shot of spring-pole turning around the 3-minute mark. This Thai craftsman uses a huge curved skew for the whole operation. With a curved edge like this you would get a different cutting action depending on where on the blade you are cutting. I wonder if this helps them turn sitting down – instead of swinging the handle around to cut a bead, maybe you could change where on the edge you cut. Following the turner, there is a lady using a wooded Archimedes drill.


I just found this third video and it puts the kibosh on my previous skew-chisel theory, since this fellow rolls a bead the same way I would. He uses a power lathe.


Here’s one final video of a very energetic fellow doing his dog-and-pony-show for some tourists. He has a cool technique at the beginning of the video using the tip of the skew to cut-off a piece in the lathe. If he rotates the handle too far it looks like he’d corkscrew, but he doesn’t. He also has a nifty brake for holding the round hub while he saws slots in it. And a cool knife that attaches to it’s long handle on a pivot.

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